We Deserve Credit, Not Chaos
(Published in the Scranton Times-Tribune, Nov. 18, 2020)
We just experienced one of the greatest achievements in our democracy’s history.
In the middle of a pandemic, our country held an election for its highest offices. States developed procedures to accommodate the health and safety of their voters, election officials, and volunteers while protecting the sanctity of the voting process. Most states offered a choice of voting methods to accommodate their concerns. We implemented these new procedures, in some states for the first time, in one of the most contentious and important national elections ever and in the face of potential interference from abroad.
We succeeded wildly.
Voters turned out in record numbers. They turned in ballots by mail. They voted early, even if it meant standing in line. They stood in even longer lines to vote on Election Day. They did so patiently, and with no violence, threats or intimidation.
Volunteers and election officials processed ballots to ensure their legitimacy and worked tirelessly to count them accurately. They did so openly, transparently and with observers from both parties watching to ensure fairness. And our election systems remained secure.
Most states produced a clear result. Where they haven’t, procedures are being exercised for recounting votes to verify the outcome. When one party raised claims of election irregularities, it exercised their right to take their cases in court, all of which so far have been rejected as meritless.
Our system worked incredibly well thanks to the commitment, effort and honesty of the people who voted and the people who administered the election process. And it was all accomplished without incident.
This is a time to celebrate our democracy!
But instead, our system is maligned. Election officials are accused of bias. Social media is overheated with baseless reports of fraud and conspiracy. Confidence in the fairness of our most fundamental institutions is undermined. And no matter how this ends, half the people in the country will feel cheated.
I have no doubt that the remaining challenges to this election will be resolved soon enough. The new administration will take office. The United States government will soldier on.
But I fear for the future of our democracy and its foundation — the rule of law. The rule of law works only if the people believe in it. And people believe in it only if they are confident that our institutions and procedural safeguards protect the fairness of our decision-making processes and trust that its outcomes are just. And right now, the outgoing administration is working very hard to destroy that trust.
In time, we will recover from the pandemic. Our economy will recover. We will develop a system for ensuring affordable health care for more people. We will take steps to protect our climate and environment. And we will find an equitable way to allow people from foreign countries to enter our country legally and stay to pursue their American dreams.
But I don’t know if we ever will recapture the trust, faith and confidence we had in the institutions that protect our democracy. And that’s sad.
Because what we just accomplished as a nation is remarkable. It demonstrates that our system is as strong and viable as ever. What a pity we’re not giving ourselves the credit we deserve.